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Rail volumes decline as trucking recovers

September 29, 2019 / Zach Strickland

Intermodal container and trailer-on-flatcar volumes are down 5.5% YoY over the past four weeks while trucking volumes are up 5% over the past month compared to the same time period in 2018. The softer rate environment in trucking has made it more conducive for shippers to use trucks over the rails, but shifting supply chain dynamics are also having an impact on rail volumes. This market may be the opportune time for trucking and the rails to re-evaluate their relationships. Intermodal containers typically measure 53 feet in length and can be transported across multiple modes—hence the name—such as container ship, rail, and on a specialized chassis of a truck. Trailer-on-flatcar is just what it sounds like, a 53-foot trucking trailer with chassis placed on top of a flat railcar, which is anything but efficient for rail operators as damage to the trailer is more likely.